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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Supreme Court refuses GW case

The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to hear GW’s case against a city housing order prohibiting the University from building nonresidential facilities. While the decision brings an end to GW’s three-year battle against the order in federal court, University officials said they would continue to seek the order’s reversal in the D.C. Court of Appeals.

University officials said they did not expect the Supreme Court, which accepts only a handful of the thousands of cases submitted for review each year, to hear GW’s case. The Court does not disclose its reasons for declining to hear a case.

“We knew it was a long shot, but we thought it was worth the effort,” University Senior Counsel Charles Barber said.

He said GW felt compelled to appeal the U.S. Court of Appeals ruling to the Supreme Court even though the chances of being granted an appeal were very small.

“It’s partly a matter of principle … these are constitutional questions that have an importance beyond GW,” Barber said.

He said GW would ask the D.C. Court of Appeals to reconsider last month’s decision to uphold the housing order.

While the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled against GW, it also found the University didn’t have enough time to comply with a Board of Zoning Adjustment order requiring it to house 70 percent of its undergraduate population within city-defined campus boundaries by August 2002.

GW now has until August 2006 to meet the 70 percent mark and provide an on-campus bed for every student that causes enrollment to exceed 8,000.

While University officials said they were pleased that the D.C. Court of Appeals gave GW an extension, they have asked the court to review its decision to uphold the city’s right to draw campus boundaries and mandate where students can be housed.

The Hall on Virginia Avenue, Pennsylvania House, the Aston and City Hall are outside of city-defined campus boundaries, and their beds will not help GW come into compliance with the order.

“The BZA should not be allowed to exempt these residence halls because they are one or two blocks away from campus,” Barber said.

The District has also asked the D.C. Court of Appeals for a rehearing, arguing that the three-year extension undermines the BZA’s authority. It is also appealing the court’s decision to stay an order requiring GW to house upperclassmen in HOVA and other off-campus residence halls.

“It’s not over until it’s over,” said Peter Lavallee, spokesman for the D.C. Corporation Counsel, which represents the District in court.

Asked if he was optimistic that the court would reconsider its ruling and reinstate the original deadline, Lavallee said, “We’ll just wait to see what they do. I don’t want to second guess what they do.”

With the Supreme Court’s decision, GW’s only recourse to overturn the order is in the D.C. Court of Appeals.

Monday’s rejection ends three years of litigation in federal court, which started when GW contested the BZA order in U.S. District Court in April 2001. While the court repealed the order a year later, a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals, prompted by an appeal from the city, reinstated the housing requirement in February 2003.

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